Randall Mackey was an offensive weapon in 2012.
The Ole Miss Rebel football team will return most starters on both sides of the ball in 2013. One noticeable exception will be the absence of RB/WR Randall Mackey. As a senior last season, the 5'11'', 190-pound Louisiana native did a little bit of everything for the Rebel offense.
While Mackey ran the ball 79 times for 325 yards and four touchdowns, he also caught 25 passes for 346 yards and another score. Did I mention he also threw for a touchdown?
Sure Hugh Freeze will have RB Jeff Scott returning, not to mention WRs Donte Moncrief, Vince Sanders, and Ja-Mes Logan, but Mackey was a player that could line up at running back, wide receiver or even quarterback on any given down. He was a dynamic playmaker for the Rebels, and he leaves a void in Freeze's high-paced offensive scheme.
Who are some players that could be the Randall Mackey of 2013?
Mathers rushed for 96 Yards in BBVA Compass Bowl.
As a freshman last season, 6'1'', 190-pound I'Tavius Mathers saw only limited action for the Rebels. Had Mathers been more productive as a blocker, as opposed to simply a great rusher, he may have shared more carries with Jeff Scott and Randall Mackey.
While Mathers played in a total of nine games, he carried the ball a mere total of 27 times for 208 yards in 2012. Coming out of the backfield, he only caught two balls for nine yards. However, when starting RB Jeff Scott went down early in the BBVA Compass Bowl, Mathers showed what he was capable of doing: rushing only six times for 96 yards and a touchdown. Not a bad coming out party, I'Tavius.
Listed as the No. 42 RB in the nation out of high school (ESPN) and The Tennessean's 2011 Player of The Year, Mathers selected Ole Miss over Arkansas, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. In fact, his decision to join the Rebels actually created a little stir with Vanderbilt's James Franklin following some comments made by Mathers and his father. Don't you think Mathers will be ready for the opener against Vandy?
Nevertheless, Mathers returns as a sophomore for the Rebels in 2013. Rebel fans got a glimpse at Mathers' potential in their bowl game, and the sophomore now has an excellent opportunity to show coaches he's ready to be an efficient SEC running back.
If he doesn't, there are a host of true freshman heading to Oxford that will be chomping at the bit.
Walton is capable of scoring on any carry.
Sophomore RB Jaylen Walton possesses breakaway speed at nearly any position on the field. Like fellow rising sophomore Mathers, Walten saw only limited time as true freshman. However, when the 5'8'', 164-pound back did see playing time last season he showed glimpses of greatness.
Only carrying the ball 23 times for 118 yards and a single score, 10 carries and 56 of Walten's total yards all season came in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Coming out of Ridgeway High School (Memphis, TN) in 2011, rivals.com listed the shifty back as the No. 8 all-purpose running back in the nation.
Often lost in conversation among some of Ole Miss' physically larger running backs, Walten is a true sleeper to make noise at running back in 2013. As the primary returning reserve at the position, along with Mathers, Walten has had a year to sit back and learn the complex Rebel offensive scheme.
He figures to again be called upon to return kickoffs this season due to his breakaway speed, but he should also be able to earn his share of snaps out of the backfield. While he doesn't figure to an every down kind of running back, Walten could give Hugh Freeze 10 to 12 carries per game at running back, leading to the possibility of a score on any given carry.
While Mathers and Walton are ready to showcase their skills this spring, there's a true freshman ready to show what he can do for the Rebels during spring camp.
Parade All-American Mark Dodson is already enrolled at Ole Miss this spring and will get take part in spring practice. The only freshman running back participating in spring ball, Dodson will have a leg up on the competition this summer.
The 5'10'', 193-pound 2012 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year will get a chance to make a name for himself before the rest of his signing class arrives for summer practice. As a senior at Whitehaven High School in Memphis, TN, Dodson rushed for 3,295 yards and 37 touchdowns. By the time he carried the ball for the final time, he ended his career as the all-time leading rusher in Shelby County (greater Memphis) high school football history.
Mark Dodson is similar in size to Mathers. If Dodson can impress coaches both carrying the football and blocking out of the backfield this spring, he may well be the number two back behind Jeff Scott entering the summer. Both Mathers and Dodson are talented, physical running backs, so it will be very interesting to see if one can separate himself over the others prior to summer camp.
Mathers, Walten, and Dodson will be the focus at running back this spring, but a host of true freshman backs arrive on campus this summer to up the competition.
Easily the fastest running back of Hugh Freeze's much-hyped 2013 recruiting class, Kailo Moore claims to have run a personal best 40-yard dash time of 4.27 seconds. That's blazing fast.
Also a track star at West Bolivar High School in Mississippi, Rebel coaches are excited about the various ways in which they can use the speedster in Ole Miss' high-tempo offense. The odd thing is despite his explosive speed, the 5'10'', 190-pound Moore's small size is also similar to that of Mathers and Dodson. Did Hugh Freeze somehow clone his running back recruits?
Dodson and Mathers provide a more bruising type of ground game option, while Moore provides a more explosive option like senior starter Jeff Scott. Still though, even with Moore's elusive speed, he is still three inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than the 5'7'', 170-pound Scott.
Ultimately choosing Ole Miss over Mississippi State, Moore is a perfect fit in Freeze's offense.
Despite being a true freshman in 2013, Kailo Moore could figure prominently in the Ole Miss offense this season in a role similar to that what Jaylen Walton may serve.
In the end, who will be the next Randall Mackey in 2013?
Largely lost in the conversation of more highly-rated recruits in the Rebel's 2013 signing class, Hugh Freeze is very excited about Derrick Jones' potential, suggesting "Derrick Jones may be one of the hidden gems in this class. I think the guy’s a phenomenal athlete. I’ve seen him play basketball when I’m out in my visit. He plays above the rim. I think he can play a lot of places for us, from safety to receiver" (olemisssports.com).
The 6'2'', 185-pound Jones may just be as athletic as anyone in Freeze's entire class. The No. 9 recruit in the State of Mississippi (ESPN) played admirably in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, hauling in a 41-yard touchdown pass.
A dynamic player that Freeze already believes can play several different positions in Oxford, there is good reason to believe Freeze may in fact move Jones to a position other than receiver early on. You better believe Jones will enter summer camp looking to play anywhere the coach puts him. Jones could be an ideal candidate to throw the ball out of the backfield a few times this season.
Needless to say, the level of competition this summer at Ole Miss will be fierce, as I'tavius Mathers, Jaylen Walton, Mark Dodson, Kailo Moore, and Derrick Jones are just a few names in the mix to step in where Randall Mackey left off for the Rebels. Memphian Jordan Wilkins and New Orleans native Eugene Brazley are two more true freshman that will be in line to compete for carries this summer.
Once Freeze is able to determine which of his true freshmen are ready to contribute, there is a great chance he will be able to redshirt at least a few of the young backs.
Rebel fans love to "Feed Moncrief," but what name can they give this young running back corps?
"The Thoroughbreds" might be the perfect name for Ole Miss' running back corps in 2013.
Don't forget, they will need to be fed.